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How to Avoid Compliance Activity That Adds Zero Value

Compliance documentation doesn’t have to be pretty

I’ve met some funny people through work over the years – funny-strange I mean, as opposed to funny-ha-ha.

One of the strangest ever was an old-school certification body ISO 9001 auditor.  Said person had many idiosyncrasies, one of which was his insistence that procedures had to be written in Times New Roman 11pt font!  Apparently he had read somewhere that this size and style of font was the easiest to read. 

God knows if he was right, but even if he was, did it really matter?  Of course not.

But here’s the scary thing – whilst he was clearly a bit of an odd-ball, he’s actually not that different from lots of other people I regularly meet. 

Bullet points are only skin-deep

“All the compliance department ever does is rewrite and format documents to make them look nice.  There’s zero value in that”.

I hear this a lot.  It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing, because in my experience, it’s true a great deal of the time.

Why is this so?  No standard I have come across states that a document has to look nice or be beautiful. 

It is so because fiddling around with margins, fonts and formatting is easy to do.  It also makes the compliance person feel like they’ve done something with their day.

The problem is, there are dozens of other things that a compliance department could be doing which will make a positive difference to the overall state of the business – things that will measurably improve the experience of employees, management and customers.

How about auditing to determine if employees are following process and procedure and completing documentation?  I’ve never heard of an employee having to stop work because a procedure was in the wrong format or bullet points were numbers instead of dots.

Or what about investigating non-conformances and looking for trends?  I have never heard of a process failure because a full-stop was missing.

Then there’s taking the time to ensure that activities are being performed and variations are controlled.  I’ve yet to be notified of someone refusing to do something because a font was the wrong size. 

When you look at it like this, it’s very easy to see that tinkering around with documentation is in no way a value-add activity (if it was, the standard would prescribe it).  Come to think about it, perhaps that’s what the standard should do – it would save us all that wasted time and resource. 

The takeaway

Ask the people in your compliance department what they have been doing this week.  If they don’t tell you that they’ve been identifying trends, doing audits and carrying out improvement activities, then they were probably spending their time making your documents incrementally more beautiful. 

Beauty is only skin-deep – especially when it comes to compliance.  Make it stop now.

Have you heard of Mango Software for compliance management? Check it out here.

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